Fasting is often thought of as taking nothing by mouth. Technically speaking, this is true, but it's not the type of fasting I suggest for detoxification. I consider total fasting—not eating or drinking anything—to be unsafe. Your body must receive at least two to three quarts of water a day to sustain your life, for you can live for only a few days without water.
Although there are many ways to fast, the kind of fast that will bring about the optimum health benefits described here is a partial fast. This type of fasting provides fantastic health benefits. For example:
Fasting gives a restorative rest to your digestive tract.
Fasting helps the body's designed healing processes to automatically work by giving them a chance to rest from other activities.
This rest from "digestion as usual" in turn allows your overburdened liver to catch up with its task of detoxification.
Your blood and lymphatic system also receive needed cleansing of toxic buildup through fasting.
Fasting allows your other digestive organs, including the stomach, pancreas, intestines and gallbladder, a much-deserved rest, which allows your cells time to heal, repair and be strengthened.
A powerful, natural way to bring relief to your body from the burden of excess toxicity, fasting is also a safe way to heal and prevent degenerative diseases. As you can see from the list above, the primary way that fasting allows your body to heal is by giving it a rest.
The Principle of Rest
As with all living things, you need to rest. Sleeping is not the only kind of rest you need. Your digestive system and other organs need a rest from their work as well.
This understanding of the human need for rest is not new to mankind. God introduced the principle of a Sabbath rest to His ancient Jewish nation. It is one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8). Israel was given specific instructions regarding this divine command to work six days and rest on the seventh day of each week.
This principle of rest was important as well to their agricultural system. The Israelites were commanded to allow their fields to lie fallow every seventh year to give the soil the rest it needed to reestablish its own mineral and nutrient content. (See Lev. 25:1–7.)
Today a decreasing number of modern farmers are following this biblical agricultural principle of resting the soil. As a result, the soil has become depleted of some of the minerals and other nutrients that our bodies crave for health. And chemical fertilizers do not succeed in giving us the abundant mineral content of healthy soil.
It is interesting to note that in the animal kingdom, it is a natural habit to seek rest and to abstain from food, especially when the animal is sick or injured. A sick animal refuses to eat and finds a place to rest where it can lap up water and be safe. Some animals hibernate, resting for an entire season without eating.
Rest is also a powerful principle of healing for the human body and psyche. Every night as you sleep, you are providing refreshing rest for your mind and body, which aids health in a tremendous way. Sleep deprivation is a commonly known form of torture, emphasizing the fact of our innate need for rest.
Fasting may be considered an internal rest for the body, allowing it to restore stamina and energy to vital organs by activating the marvelous self-cleansing system with which it is designed.
The Physical Benefits of Fasting
When you fast regularly, your body will enjoy some of these general benefits.
Increasing energy and mental clarity. Cellular toxins and free radicals impair the mitochondria (the energy factories in each cell), hindering them from producing energy effectively. As a result, you may suffer fatigue, irritability and lethargy. But when you fast, you allow your cells to shed many toxins so they can again produce the energy you need. Along with increased energy, you will most likely enjoy improved mental functioning as your body cleanses, repairs and rejuvenates its cells, including those in your brain.
Boosting your immune system. Short-term fasting will also boost your immune system, which will help prevent disease and illness and give you a longer life. Along with an improved quality of life, you will discover that fasting even makes you look better. Your skin will eventually become clearer, giving you radiance you have not known since your youth. The whites of your eyes will usually become clearer—they may even sparkle.
Restoring nature's delicate balance. When your body's tissues are too acidic, precious minerals are lost in the urine, and cells become less permeable, which means they are unable to excrete waste products effectively. In a sense, your cells become constipated; they may be full of waste and cannot eliminate it efficiently. As the cells become more and more toxic, free-radical activity increases, and the toxic overload continues to build until your body starts to deteriorate, and degenerative diseases occur. However, fasting brings back the natural balance. It alkalinizes and raises the pH of the tissues. This enables the cells to excrete toxins again and begins the process of detoxifying your body from head to toe.
Helping you lose weight. Fasting frees your body not only of disease-causing chemicals but also of toxic fat. If you are overweight and even significantly obese, partial fasting can help bring your body back to the normal, healthy size that God intended. A regular, sensible fasting or detox program can slim you down very quickly, and you will also experience the more important benefit of reducing the fatty areas in your body where dangerous toxins and chemicals are usually stored.
When You Should Not Fast
Some health conditions prohibit fasting for certain individuals. Major conditions that prevent you from fasting include—but are not limited to—pregnancy and nursing, surgery, severe liver and kidney disease, mental illness, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure and type 1 diabetes. In addition, as a physician, I try to help wean my patients off most of their medications prior to supervising a fast for them. Please consult your physician before considering a fast. Finally, children under the age of 18 should not follow a strict juice fast unless they are closely monitored by a physician.
Whether physical conditions prevent you from fasting or not, there are steps everyone can take to improve intestinal health and establish a healthy eating plan. I recommend that everyone do the following:
Always avoid overeating.
Reinoculate the bowel with supplements containing friendly bacteria: lactobacillus acidophilus for the small intestines and bifidobacteria for the large intestine. These good bacteria can also help prevent damage to the lining of the GI tract, thus maintaining normal intestinal permeability.
Refrain from excessive eating before bedtime.
Determine to decrease the stress in your life, especially when eating, by choosing to eat in a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere.
Stock your pantry with health-first items, and eliminate processed, refined, devitalized and sugary foods.
Take a good fiber supplement such as psyllium husk powder or keto zone fiber.
Fasting and establishing healthy eating plans are the first two steps to help you feel and look better than you have in years. However, to keep your body detoxified from the harmful toxins in our world, you will usually have to fast repeatedly to detoxify the body and achieve vibrant health. Regular fasting is a healthy, biblical way to cleanse your body and soul.
Don Colbert, M.D., has been a board-certified family practice doctor for more than 25 years in Orlando, Florida, and most recently in Dallas, Texas. He is also a New York Times' bestselling author.
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